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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Genderqueer? More Like Confused about the Birds and Bees!

"Genderqueer"...Yup, that's the headline that caught my eye this morning on the front page of WaPo's Outlook section. Written by a law student at Georgetown, Marion Cory, and accompanied by photos (presumably the author) of a masculine-looking woman working out, the article exemplified the fact that gender-confused individuals are stuck in adolescence.

What are the characteristics of young teens? I raised five of them and am now grandparenting several. From my experience, I think it's accurate to say that teens are self-conscious, often uncomfortable with the changes in their body, voice, emotions, etc. They like to imagine things differently from what they are. They tend to be narcissistic analyzing everything by the impact on self. If they see people nearby talking and laughing, they frequently jump to the conclusion that they are the center of attention and are being talked and laughed about. They ride an emotional roller coaster and are easily hurt. Sometimes they seem not to live in the real world.

Rudolf Allers, the renowned psychiatrist calls adolescence a period of "trouble and of is essentially a period of unrest and of uncertainty...uncertainty is the very basic feature of this age."

As I read Cory's story, teenager kept flashing in my mind. Let me share some of the article to explain. The author says:
I identify as 'genderqueer' -- blurring the line between man and woman....Calling myself genderqueer is about gender fluidity, not necessarily about sexual orientation. It's about expressing a more authentic self. Existing in the gray area, I feel less confined by false notions of how I "ought" to be.
She explains "ought" as the stereotype of girls playing with dolls, baking, girl stuff, etc. vs. being a boy scout and designing a Pinewood Derby car. That just seems silly to me. Women have always done things that were unusual. I was the only woman in my graduate business class in 1969 at the University of Maryland. When I switched to George Washington into Public Administration, I was often the only woman in my class or in a small minority. My mom, a generation earlier, was the only woman in her law school class at Western Reserve University (Now Case Western Reserve). Women have always shattered the stereotypes. To act like she's the first to be "different" is silly. The Olympics currently feature numerous athletic women competing in the same sports as the men. What's different is Cory's desire to "blur the line" between men and women based on her feelings. And that, I think, is teenage behavior.

She says she saw "freedom" in the boy box -- "but a freedom that would forever be unattainable."
It's hard to understand what she's talking about since she is in a generation of women that have unlimited possibilities including getting killed in Afghanistan alongside male combatants. What is unattainable is for her to actually be a man, but she is certainly spending plenty of time at the gym working out like a man to be one of the boys.

Some of her statements sound like conversation at the Mad Hatter's tea party:
Since I couldn't be a boy, I sought solace in creating a body that felt empowering, and the gym became my temple....This is the place where I seek truth. I feel affirmed and loved, not by others, but by myself....I was born into this world wrapped in a pink blanket, and that color seemed like my destiny, whether I like it or not....[Working out like a male] is a strange experience for someone socialized as a girl -- taught to always ask permission, to say "please," "thank you" and "excuse me."....The gym invites me to expose my unfettered masculinity without apology.
I don't know about other parents, but we taught our two sons and three daughters all about courtesy. We expected all of them to say please, thank you, and excuse me. We taught the boys to open the doors for women and all our children to open doors for older people or those who needed assistance. There is no "gender-bending" when it comes to common courtesy.

Cory goes on to talk about how going to the gym hurts. She has to think about which locker room to use. (Really?) She's "stared at" and feels traumatized "every time I change in front of women."
Why this should be the case is hard to understand. She is, after all, a woman. Do the other women in the locker room care? Cory's expression of hurt and being stared at are obviously the way she feels. But do those feelings reflect reality? Maybe, maybe not. Are people really staring or is she reflecting her own insecurity and discomfort with who she is as described here:
The way I express my gender places me in the borderland between the men's and women's locker rooms. I don't feel I belong comfortably in in either, so I choose the one I'm most acquainted with through years of obedience to the gender I was assigned at birth.
the "gender assigned at birth?" Is she serious? I guess so because later in the article she repeats it making a nonsensical statement about "transitioning to a gender different from the one a doctor assigned at birth." Excuse me, but sex isn't assigned by doctors and it doesn't happen at birth. (Why do LGBTIQ folks always seem ignorant of the birds and bees?) The sex of a child (and there are only two) is determined when the egg and sperm unite. If the sperm is XX, the child is a girl. If the sperm is XY, the child is a boy. The sex is easily determined in the zygote if the chromosome structure can be analysed. (There is a rare abnormality called hermaphroditism where a child is born with organs of both sexes, but it is abnormal like being born with extra toes.)

It's clear from the article that Marion Cory is uncomfortable with her sex. She apparently wished she was a boy and her entire article is an exercise in narcissistic navel gazing. I'm not surprised the article made WaPo. After all, their transparent agenda is promoting the lie that there are numerous "genders." (That used to be a grammar term before the day of 53 genders and counting.) The Post demands we acknowledge and respect them all like the Aztecs called for the worship of Quetzlecoatl. But in the end it is all a childish demand to confirm the make believe, like my little granddaughter who occasionally insists she's a dog. And it also reminds me of my the days of my own small children. Once when we were talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up I got these interesting answers. "When I grow up I want to be a school bus," said one young son, and his brother, not to be outdone, chimed in, "When I grow up I want to be a snowman." Sounds like gender 54 and 55 to me. It makes just as much sense of all the others after male and female.

Please add Marion Cory to your prayer list. I found the article sad and bizarre. As our pastor preached today, many people in our world are wounded. And the more dysfunctional someone's view of the world is, the more it reflects their woundedness. Back in the early 90s at a pro-life rescue in Buffalo I met a young woman who, like Cory, dressed and acted like a man. I engaged her in conversation because I was puzzled at such a pretty young woman wanting to look like a guy. She told me she'd been raped and hated men. She clearly was hurt and I felt nothing but compassion for her. How many other stories of woundedness fill the pages of the "gender confused?" Let us pray for them all that the same Jesus who touched the heart and conscience of the Samaritan woman, will touch them as well. In Him is healing and true joy.


  1. I hope you have been reading my stuff on this issue - and remember Melinda Selmys and Eve Tushnet and the new homophiles? This is very much part of that - esp. with Selmys.

    This isn't just a faze or a fad or a confused teenage rebellious stage - this is a very real extension of sexual revolution and radical feminism. Gender is an ideology.

  2. Gender just means the social script for relating to (the, yes, biological reality of) sex, male and female. In other words, what is "masculine" or "feminine."

    In times past, the hegemonic scripts were often so dominant (though in many cultures you do actually find "third gender" spaces and identities) that people perhaps saw them as simply equivalent to sex.

    Today, realizing that gender is the social construction OF sex, we have more of a spectrum of scripts that people mix and match. While the "poles" of stereotypical masculinity and femininity remain, people mix and match and negotiate and integrate them in different ways in their psyche and personal identity.

    Nothing wrong with a masculine woman or a feminine man. If it's extreme enough or socially dissonant enough, that's "queer." What of it? It means some people deconstruct preconceived notions of how personality relates to sex (and some go so far as: how both relate to public physical presentation. Drag, for instance, is only drag because in our culture men don't wear padded dresses, long hair, or make up. But there is nothing biologically determinate about that. Yet SOCIALLY it's a mixed signal to say the least!).

    Of course it's highly personal. One guy who likes pink and dolls and gardening might feel a dissonance because of it and construct himself as feminine, as gender queer in that sense. Another guy with the same pursuits might choose a "real men wear pink!" construction that emphasizes not the social transgressiveness, but rather the ultimate compatibility of different scripts with different bodies. It's really up to them to decide, but it's also up to society to perceive: some people might think of the first guy "so it's rarer to see a guy liking those things? So what? Why emphasize the exceptionalism? He's still a male!" But then in turn other people might look at the second guy and snicker that he's unmanly in spite of his own integration. And all these perceptions are valid in the sense that such social presentations are navigated subjectively and communication of significance is fraught by the gap between speaker and listener, author and receiver, and things get more confusing the more multivalenced the system of signifiers becomes.

  3. Wow! I'm still trying to figure out what you're saying with all this psycho-babble. Can you please translate?

    People can have whatever interests they want. I have a son, a father of four, who loves to cook, coaches soccer, and did an incredible needlepoint of wolves. I have a sister, mom of four, who got her pilot's license. My husband and I square dance and we know people who can dance both the man and woman's parts. Since when is gardening a woman's thing? Or cooking? None of this has anything to do with "gender."

    As for your "multivalenced system of signifiers"...well, I'm speechless!

  4. Well but it does have to do with gender inasmuch as gender is a social system of associations. Historically contingent, constructed associations, between various traits and sex.

    Your "they have nothing to do with each other" is just as much a deconstruction of these scripts as the more transgressively framed narratives, I might even say "the other side of the coin." Just perhaps rather more naive.

    "There is no masculine or feminine, only male and female" is really quite equivalent to saying "men need not be masculine, women need not be feminine." Both are the same deconstruction in the end.

  5. People have a variety of interests. I don't think you can peg most interests as "masculine" or "feminine" to the exclusion of the other sex. Obviously, little boys and little girls play differently because of the way they are made. If my boys were outside they were using sticks for guns and wrestling. The girls were more likely to be making imaginary worlds with the sticks and flowers.

    But masculine and feminine are defined by more than hobbies which is the point I was making. A woman who likes sports doesn't become another "gender" because she enjoys throwing a football any more than a man becomes another "gender" because he likes to cook.

    And your statement that gender is a "social system of associations Historically contingent, constructed associations, between various traits and sex." sounds like more modern psycho-babble. What is historical about it? All this "gender" theory is just neo-modern nonsense to rationalize behavior that is unnatural and perverted.

  6. No a woman who likes sports doesn't "become another gender" because gender is not a "thing" like that. It's not that sort of category and should not be used that way linguistically. Gender is a social "role" assigned to the sexes above and beyond their biological purpose. It's about what you do and how you present, not about what you are (except inasmuch as your identity is invested in a particular relationship to gender).

    So what we would say, rather, is that (in that one respect, at least) she is being gender transgressive, she is bending the hegemonic script about sports. It is not wrong to say that a woman who is gung-ho about the Super Bowl has a "typically masculine" appreciation of sports (and that may be taken as a compliment or an insult; just look at early Christian writings encouraging women to be "manly" in spiritual combat).

    What's historically contingent about gender? The fact that different ages and different cultures have different and ever-evolving scripts regarding the social or personality-related significance of the sexes. What their social role is (are women to work? Or stay in the home? May they wield political power?), what personality traits are appropriate (should women be demure and deferrent? Should boys be aggressive and boisterous?) and how sex is presented externally (do women wear long hair and make-up? Do men wear the pants?) are all utterly varied across time and space. Even the question of whether these norms are taken to be prescriptive or merely descriptive is variable.

    I think your specific concerns might relate specifically to gay and transgendered notions where the fluid and constructed notion of gender is used to conceive of even sex itself as malleable or deconstructable. That's certainly open to critique, that sort of sexed-significance detached from the original grounding signifiers themselves (ie, concepts of gender free-floating and superseding even male and female bodies).

    But I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water. The genderqueer girl isn't saying "I'm a male, give me surgery" quite yet. She's essentially saying "I'm a tomboy," just with a more nuanced intellectual framework regarding what that identity means sociologically and politically.

  7. We've always had tomboys including several of my five sisters. The pretense that there are now dozens of "genders" besides male and female is unadulterated nonsense and no amount of highfalutin mumbo- jumbo will make it any less ridiculous to the average person with a little common sense. "God made them male and female."

  8. Well it does all get a little fuzzy. Some people do speak of "multiple genders" as if they were distinct categories like the two sexes.

    But of course, even these categories are conceptually, ultimately, rooted in the two sexes.

    By which I mean, when people speak of multiple genders or gender identities, they're talking about there being a multiplicity of gender SCRIPTS now available besides the hegemonic male and female scripts.

    But at the end of the day, all of these scripts are still defined as particular combinations of masculine and feminine traits, either somewhere along the "spectrum" between those two poles, or else as deliberately questioning, deconstructing, queering, transgressing, or reacting against that binary.

    Personally I'm not sure if I see the point of crystallizing these different gender expressions into concrete "category" identities, which is why I personally hesitate to call them "genders" and would rather describe them by terms like "gender scripts," "gender expressions," or "gender presentations".

    "Gender" is the social construction of the significance of the sexes. In itself, as I understand the more precise usage, you are not "a gender," you do not "belong to a gender." Masculine and Feminine are the two fundamental "poles" OF gender. But man/male/masculine is not "a gender" (though male is a sex). Rather people "relate to" gender in a variety of ways.

    In this sense gender is to sex like "politics" is to society or government. You aren't "a politic." Rather, you HAVE your politics, you relate to politics, you engage politics in a specific way. Maybe you fall into this or that party, or into a liberal/conservative dichotomy, or maybe you don't, but it describes a phenomenon, not a taxonomy.